From the Vault: The World’s Longest Outdoor Sale

warhorsesign1 The first three long features I ever wrote for the Cincinnati CityBeat weekly paper were:

  • the story of the American Federation of Riders, a motorcycle club my Uncle helped found (1995);
  • the story of Cincinnati’s attempt to arrest the graffiti artists who were tagging the city (although most of that occurred in the storm sewers) (1995); and
  • the story of the world’s longest outdoor sale, which happens in Appalachia ever year (2001).

The first two were stories I wrote after leaving the newspaper to pursue my freelance writing career. The third story – which I started in 1997 – didn’t see publication until 2001 when I resurrected it from the scrap heap.

It’s important to note: this was reported 2 years into my career, which had mostly been as a freelance writer; it was 2 years after I’d met Hunter S. Thompson in Louisville, Kentucky and decided that I needed to write about the American Dream; which set me off on a quest to read every American Dream author (Hawthorne, the New Journalists, Fitzgerald, ect) and tailor everything I did around that; all of which led me to Berkeley just a year later.

Originally commissioned in 1997 by Axcess magazine out of San Diego, the story never got published as the magazine went out of business. (That happened when I traveled there to meet them. I actually helped them move equipment out of their second story offices.)

You can read the story I wrote in 2001 here: The Lost Highway: A pulp tale of pop culture,an unknown highway, Death Week and the future of Americana, by Brad King. Photos by Monte McCarter.

I’ll publish the notes from my trip later. They need to be cleaned up. But you can enjoy a few of the pictures from our time in Gadsden, Alabama.

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The cover image for our story. Monte set up several time exposures on the highway from Alabama to Texas.

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When we arrived in Alabama, we stumbled across the War Horse Museum Lounge. The bar opened on Friday and didn’t close until Sunday at 2 am. Needless to say: I didn’t leave the bar until Sunday.

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Monte stuck me in the car and drove up the highway, waking me up whenever we stopped so that I could interview people. But when I’d wake up, I would see scenes like this: people selling wares along the side of the road.

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Some of the areas were more together. this was part of a rather large tent-city, where people were selling what looked more like retail stuffs.

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Even still, the sale is a mish-mash of people and wares. And there’s no way to stop at every station. With 450-miles to cover, you simply stop whenever the mood strikes you and then you dig through whatever is there.

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My favorite places, though, were the gypsy-like set-ups away from the entire event. We rarely stopped at these place, but it’s just nice to know it exists. Even at the outdoor sale, people don’t want to be associated with “big retailers” in the tent-cities.

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There is almost no explanation for this picture. However, I promise that Monte bought that juice for me to ensure that I didn’t die of dehydration in between my sleeps.

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For the record, that is not my van. But it’s sure indicative of what we saw out on the road. I’m from here and I’m amazed at times.

Despite the rather ominous appearances, everyone along the way was brilliantly nice. I was the scariest person there (and those are stories that I’m saving the The Book of Brad).

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